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Friday, October 30, 2015

He's Just My Brewer, But Has He Got A Load to Carry!

Do you remember the other day when I said I was going to update the list of breweries? Yes, I did say that and I set about typing them all in. Ever single brewery listed within fifty (50) miles of my house is included as well as a few that I frequent pretty regularly.  I knew this was a big task but I did not realize how big. Anyone care to guess how many breweries this encompassed?

Grand total: 62. Thats right kiddoes, there are 62 breweries within 50 miles of my house (give or takes 5 or 6, such as Borg Brugghus which is in Iceland, but we have a relationship with them.)

Kind of blows the mind and there are new ones opening soon. Now I move over to the breweries I have visited on a couple of the field trips. Breweries are on the upswing and it will be interesting to bring their treasures back!

Union Station Brewery, Providence, RI

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

He's Not Heavy, He's Just My Brewer

Shipyard Brewing Company, Portland, ME
Breweries. They just keep rolling out new ones or expanding old ones. I sat down to build out the current list of breweries from Virginia, DC, Maryland and the eastern and central parts of Pennsylvania, and was really overwhelmed by the sheer number of them. While I plan the expansion, I have added a few to the list. Hopefully, you have been to a couple of them, but as for the whole list, more power to you if you have.  When I get basic list done, I will post the results of the ventures to California, Maine, Rhode Island, and Colorado.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dark, Dank, Dreary and a Perfect Tuesday Night

Tuesday was just one of those days: dark, dank and dreary. The clouds had been in all day long and had been threatening until late when they brought down their torrents. But there was a break in the weather and I ventured out to my usual Tuesday haunt, the Meridian Pint to see what elements had been brought to the table. It was a good thing that I did because I had a remarkable evening.

After ordering my food (half a Peruvian chicken, yucca and coleslaw with a nice fresh verde sauce) I put an order in for my beer. I wanted to try something with the beer order that I had thought about a couple of times that is going from light to dark. Not a big deal, but it is something that I have though about doing, so I did it, and I have to say it worked out pretty well!

Femme Fatale Yuzu Pale by Evil Twin Brewing
The first beer order was for a Femme Fatale Yuzu Pale by Evil Twin Brewing Company. (The head office is Evil Twin Brewing, 446 Kent Avenue, apt 14A Brooklyn, NY 11249 USA but the web address is  Hoppy! A bit hoppier than normal, but actually pretty pleasing. These are not the real strong bitter hops we have come to expect but a softer version that really compliment the food. The hop flavor stays around and then fades. Nice golden color. It is great. It is brewed in cooperation with Westbrook Brewing Company. Alcohol is 6% ABV and it lists no IBU. The web lists it as follows: 

To take up the challenge and make a 100% true Brett IPA with Yuzu fruit can very easily become a fatal attraction for the Brewmaster. Once you get acquainted with the Yuzu fruits irresistible and seductive personality, along with Bretts overpowering, alluring and very charming nature, it will ensnare you and drive you mad obsessing over how exactly you can create the perfect desirable tangy, funky, crisp, tart flavor in ya mouth.  

Its Untappd score is 4.25.

 Daily Brett by Smuttynose Brewing
Dinner came and the next order went in to the bar.  Smuttlabs: Daily Brett by Smuttynose Brewing Company. (, 105 Towle Farm Road, in Hampton, NH.) Its very serene and then it sneaks up on you to provide a nice bitter taste. You go from drinking plain beer to a bitter beer in the blink of an eye. Not too bitter, but just enough that you recognize it. It is really a great shift in its flavor! Alcohol is 5.9% ABV and it has 10 IBUs. The web lists it as follows:   

Daily Brett is meant to be just what its name implies, a simple, golden, daily drinker with enough barnyard funk from our saison yeast and lots of juicy tropical fruit highlights from a unique strain of brettanomyces known as “Brett Drei.” This is our first beer fermented with two yeast strains in primary fermentation and we’re thrilled with the results.

I gave it a 4.5 on Untappd.

Breakfast Stout by Founders Brewing
Dinner was over and I ordered dessert, which of course, is pumpkin pie. Normally I ask the server for their suggestion of what to get, and when I asked Stephanie the reply was immediate. Breakfast Stout was the perfect pairing with pumpkin pie. Boy, I could not have picked a better one. (Three shouts for Stephanie!) Breakfast Stout by Founders Brewing Company ( 235 Grandville Ave. SW Grand Rapids, MI 49503 V: (616) 776-2182 Taproom: (616) 776-1195)

Stephanie was right, it came out tasting like chocolate - deep, rich, dark chocolate with coffee out the sides. It just oozes the flavor, like a chocolate chip cookie being dunked in coffee. It is really great beer. The alcohol is 8.3% ABV and it has 60 IBUs. The web lists it as follows:

The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and two types of coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever.

I gave it a 4.75 on Untappd.

I gathered up my stuff and quietly slipped out, feeling comfortable with my choices for dinner and drinks. Stephanie had disappeared, but the Tuesday night belong in part to her rapid responses. I also think that the escalating potentates of the drinks also had something to do with it. I will try that again! In any case, I slipped onto the train for the ride home feeling that despite the dark, dank, and dreary ride home and I had a rather a perfect Tuesday night.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Craft Beer Plays in Vanity Fair

Every so often, you find a good article in the least likely of sources. This time, it is Vanity Fair, who put together an article that crosses into craft brewing. The art of craft brewing has attracted a fair number of unique personalities and this article details the lives of five of them.  Most of them you know from the annals of craft brewing, but you might not know all five.

The article, by Ethan Fixell, is a good accounting of how craft brewing came to be. A couple of these characters really impacted how I came to craft beer, especially Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company out of Chico, CA.

Brian Smith

Monday, October 12, 2015

Listen to an Artist

I am not a brewer. But I learned a process for enabling myself to think through problems, analyze the situation, break it down and then reassemble it in a way that made sense to me and those around me.  I think I am pretty good at it and it has enabled me to shift from subject to subject with relative ease.

So I entered Rustico pretty confident that I could weave together a couple of brews and come out all right by the end of the night.  I came in, sat down, said "Hi" to my friend Olga, chatted a bit with her, and then ordered up my first beer. This is where I made my first mistake.

I put in for a Solidarity: Red, White and Gluten, which is a American pale wheat ale, brewed by District Chophouse and Brewery. Now when you see gluten in the name that gluten will be receiving special treatment, and this was no exception. It was kind of strange tasting. I have sampled almost 1500 beers and this one was on the weird list. I found this a bit disappointing and it made more sense that it belonged on the light or perhaps even a sour one, but not American pale wheat ale. It was OK beer but I felt down after drinking it. I gave it an Untappd score of 3.5, but that was being charitable. Could I have blown it so badly?

Olga came over again to see how I was doing. I explained my situation to her and she suggested to tap into my server's knowledge and see what he could come up with as an interim solution. So I did, and it just goes to prove that should listen to your server because they are really more an artist, than a simple worker.

With Olga's assistance, my next order was a Saison De Pipaix, which is listed as a saison/farmhouse ale, brewed by Brasserie a Vapeur. Brasserie a Vapeur is a Belgian vapor brewery founded in the town of Pipaix. This beer is subtle in the way it weaves it aroma around you, slowly drawing you in. The mix of hops and other ingredients take their time, stemming from the vapor, to take their time. Weaving your head and body to the point where you think you are in heaven. It is really good beer. The alcohol is 6% ABV and no IBU is listed.  The website lists is as:

A traditional Wallonian saison beer, born with the brewery in 1785. Dry, normally hopped, slightly acidic, very spicy (black pepper, ginger, sweet orange peel, curaƧao, star anise...)

I rate it at an Untappd of 4.25. 

I started to feel my power returning. I was alright, but I needed another beer of similar stature to bring me around. I explained my situation to Jesse (I somehow had two servers!) and he had two potential solutions. I ordered one and he brought two glasses. (I have discovered since then that he often does this - it is a welcomed treat.) He has definitely earned my approval.

The first one I tried was Le Terroir (Lips of Faith), a American wild ale by the New Belgium Brewing Company of Ft. Collins, CO. This starts as a battle between malts, locked in a beautiful blond ale. Some are coming early and others are sneaking in and then striking full force. The battle is epic but somehow soothing at the same time. The battle winds down until you take another drink and it is back on.  It is good beer, though I can appreciate some drinker's hesitance. The alcohol is 7.5% ABV and the IBU is 12. The website couches it this way:

Le Terroir: French, meaning ‘from the terrain, soil, land, ground, earth.’ You may have heard it as a wine term speaking of the environmental conditions of the vineyard, the pH of the soil, even the slope of the land. But beer has it too, especially a New Belgium sour beer, which oozes terroir from the pores of the wooden foeders we age it in. They produce a base beer that’s golden-colored with a soft overripe peach aroma and just the right amount of tart. And after 3 years in the foeders, you can bet it has some nice earthy tones. Round out that fruity base with even more unique fruity hops like Amarillo and Galaxy, and this beer may just have more terroir than your classiest wine. 

I rate it at an Untappd of 4.5. 

Now I turned to the other glass. This was Rio De Sauvin, another saison/farmhouse ale, brewed by Stillwater Artisanal Ale (1028 S. Conkling St. Baltimore, MD 21224.) The mango and passion fruit made their presence early on.  They are up and in your face, but then they go away and leave a really nice pleasant tasting beer. Over and over again. Completely different from the Le Terroir, but still in the same vein of really good beer. These beers compliment each other and I can see why Jesse could not make up his mind. I don't think I could make it up either. Both had roles to play in making my evening turn on an upswing.  No information on the ABV or the IBU because this beer does not appear on the Stillwater Artisanal Ale roles.  

I rate it at an Untappd of 4.5.

So I rolled out feeling pretty good - my faith restored and ready for whatever to evening had to present itself. I am glad that I had run into Olga and Jesse. Once again, Rustico helped to fill my need!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Drafting Table

I happened on this eating place quite by accident. I was taking the Metro to Columbia Heights to get off at the Meridian Pint for my usual Tuesday night dinner. The trains stopped at the Convention Center and the driver  announced that we were getting off here because the train at Columbia Heights had lost power. So, the doors opened and we were cast out in the urban wilderness.

I started for Columbia Heights station by cutting over a couple of blocks to 14th Street and then turning up the street. I had walked a couple of blocks when I ran to this restaurant called The Drafting Table.  It looked open and friendly and I said to myself that I really had to try and get back there on a return trip. Thursday came around and I had a bare spot in the calendar, so that became the day to try out The Drafting Table.

The Drafting Table ( 1529 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20005, V: 202-621-7475) is a first come, first serve restaurant and is squarely targeted at the locals on 14th Street, NW.  As the name suggests, it is a place for old drafting tables to come for their final resting place, as well as a few chairs. The place really exudes the effort put in it, especially the larger than life pencil hanging over the entry way. The wait staff continues to reinforce this casual service, but does so kind of haphazardly. Two more wait staff would probably solve this problem, or a host and one wait staff.

I got my seating instructions and placed myself down at a table. Menu came moments later. I had ordered a beer, tomato soup and D.T. jerk chicken. The tomato soup was definitely canned and came with overly dry toast. The jerk chicken was better, but the rice and beans were too dry. Teach me to go out on Thursday Night Football between the Giants and the Redskins!

Agave Wheat by Breckenridge Brewery
The beer listed was mostly skewed to the middle with no stout or porter. The beer that I ordered was Breckenridge Agave Wheat, which is an American pale wheat ale, manufactured by Breckenridge Brewery. This beer had a really unique flavor. You can really taste the agave in the background and the wheat up front. Its really a nice mix, though it is a bit weird. Usually agave is in the forefront, prominent and bold, but being in the background muffles the flavor that normally has a strong agave taste. Weird, but good. Alcohol and IBU information is not available. The website says:
Agave complements the refreshingly light quality of our wheat and adds a subtle note of flavor that expands this beer’s uplifting taste profile. It is familiar, yet creative.

It earns an Untappd rating of 4.25. 

Unfortunately, the beer list that appears with the menu online, does not reflect the beer list at the restaurant. I found several entries on the menu online that did not appear on the list available in the restaurant. There was no date affixed to the list in the restaurant.  They need to pull these more into line - they don't have a good reason for these to be out of coordination.

The Drafting Table gets kind of a mix rating. Good atmosphere, relaxed and approachable, but kind of mediocre service.  The beers that they had were a good mix of weights, mostly tending towards the middle. If they could get the service right, imposing a bit more structure to it, The Drafting Table could be right where DC needs a restaurant - good, fun and serviceable.